NORTH LITTLE ROCK (KFSM)--In the 7A boys state tournament, Northside is out to defend its crown. That comes with higher expectations.
"Of course there’s a target on our back," senior Isaiah Joe, an Arkansas commit said. "People think that it was a fluke last year and so we gotta come out strong this year and let them know that it wasn’t."
Southside makes its return to the tournament.
"2012 was the last time we went so it’s been a few years so these kids are just really excited to get to go back," Mavericks coach Charles Cooper said. "We went 7-7 in the conference and beat some pretty good basketball teams in the Central so we're confident."
And Fayetteville rolled through the 7A-West.
I feel like we’re carrying over a good amount of momentum because we really started to come on defensively and started to all do our job and that’s really helped us," senior Jon Conley said.
But there's no denying that more than a handful of teams can make deep runs, or even contend in Hot Springs.
The intensity is on a whole 'nother level. All the teams are gonna come out harder, they’re gonna play you their best game and you gotta be ready for it," said Joe.
"Anybody can beat anybody once you get down there, it’s just who’s playing well and who’s hot," Fayetteville coach Kyle Adams added.
"It’s pretty deep, like there’s a lot of teams with a lot of talent on there. And they’re gonna come at us like we’re gonna come at them," Purple Dog senior Frank Morgan said. "They gonna come 100 percent."
"Really it’s state tournament time and really you don’t know what’s gonna happen," Grizzlies coach Eric Burnett said. "And there’s no telling who can come out to the finals next week because a bunch of us are pretty equal. I don’t think there’s anybody that’s head over heels better than anybody."
The keys to winning in late February/early March are all agreed upon.
"Defensively you’ve got to guard every possession like it’s the last one you’ll ever play because it will be if you string three or four bad possessions together," said Adams.
So whether a perennial power like North Little Rock takes the crown, or an underdog like Bentonville West, there will be plenty of competitive games along the way.
The 7A state tournament will be played Wednesday through Saturday at North Little Rock High School.